Catholic Communities Featured Prominently in Two Pride Parades

June 22, 2013

PrideAround the globe, June is traditionally celebrated as Pride month in the LGBT community.  It is common for cities, large and small, to host parades, festivals, and other events to acknowledge the contributions of LGBT people and to let folks know about the supportive resources and organizations within the local community.

LGBT-friendly religious groups also take part in Pride celebrations, though having a Catholic presence in these events is a rare occurrence.  Sometimes the presence of a Catholic group sparks controversy, as happened last week in Portland, Oregon, when a St. Andrew Parish marched in the city’s Pride parade, even though their archbishop told them not to do so.

On the east coast of the U.S., another Catholic parish also marched in its city’s Pride parade:  St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, Maryland.  The parish’s LGBT ministry was lauded by the LGBT community for their presence and leadership.  The More Light Presbyterians website had these accolades for their Catholic friends:

When the Gay Pride parade kicked off in Baltimore on June 15, a number of faith communities were present – and Presbyterians were an important part of the event.  Faith Presbyterian – one of the organizers of the effort – and Brown Memorial Park Avenue– were proudly marching behind the banner, FAITH COMMUNITIES OF BALTIMORE with PRIDE – as was First & St. Stephens United Church of Christ.  But the largest number came

St. Matthew's contingent in  Baltimore's Pride Parade

St. Matthew’s contingent in Baltimore’s Pride Parade

from St. Matthews Roman Catholic church – the real instigator of the effort.  Long before we started actively recruiting walkers, St. Matthews had paid all the entry fees (Faith paid for the banner)!  Their goal was to have 100 walkers – I think the final number was 115!  Their enthusiasm was contagious as we planned the event.  Their LEAD ministries – their program to welcome LGBTQ’s – is an important part of the life at St. Matthews – and fits well with Faith’s participation in MORE LIGHT Presbyterians.  Faith and St. Matthews are long-time friends – both are active participants in the events of the Loch Raven (Blvd) Ministerium.  In fact the two churches are planning to do anti-bullying workshops together in the fall.  And we’re already talking about Gay Pride 2014!

Dignity/Washington's contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

Dignity/Washington’s contingent in the Capital Pride Parade

In nearby Washington, DC,  another Catholic community was also celebrated in their city’s Capital Pride Festival.    Dignity/Washington, which marked 40 years of service last year, received the Festival’s “Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride.”   The  Capital Pride Festival’s website details Dignity/Washington’s many contributions to the local community, particularly their contributions to Pride celebrations:

“Dignity/Washington has participated in every LGBT March on Washington. Dignity/Washington was one of the earliest organizations to take part in the local Pride celebrations and has been a Capital Pride participant for over three decades.  Dignity/Washington became a Capital Pride Community Partner in 2007, even before the Capital Pride Alliance came into existence.  In 2008, Dignity/Washington was one of the organizations that supported the decision to award the Capital Pride Alliance the right to produce the celebration.  Dignity/Washington donated free space at the Dignity Center to the Capital Pride Alliance in the first few years after the Alliance came into existence. “

Heather Mizeur

Heather Mizeur

At their Pride liturgy, Dignity/Washington hosted Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Catholic lesbian woman who is considering a run to become the state’s governor.    Mizeur was instrumental in getting Maryland’s marriage equality law passed.

Congratulations to both St. Matthew Parish and Dignity/Washington for being recognized for their wonderful and important contributions!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Are LGBT Catholics At Home In the Church?

May 27, 2013
David Gibson of Religion News Service

This spring, several Catholic bishops made positive comments about LGBT people within Catholicism, including remarks by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Easter and several Vatican officials endorsing civil unions.

In light of actions contradicting the welcoming message, David Gibson of Religion News Service poses an interesting question to several Catholics in recent headlines, “Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?” He writes of the tensions:

“It’s still not clear what the second step [after Dolan's positive remarks] in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated…

“Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.”

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

Gibson details the firings of Nicholas Coppola and Carla Hale, while Bondings 2.0 has reported on these and several other cases in recent months that are making LGBT-Catholic relations strained. Gibson quotes Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, who questions how these actions fit with other Catholic principles about justice.

“’How just is it to fire someone whose life or practices are not in accord with official church teaching?’…

“’Where do you draw the line?…Do you get fired if you have remarried without an annulment? Do you get fired if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday regularly? Do you get fired because you are a Protestant who does not recognize the Catholic hierarchical structure?’”

Yet, not only are LGBT advocates within the Catholic Church worried, priests and others in ministry recognize the increasing frequency of these conflicts at local levels:

“’The fact is that it is going to get worse,’ said the pastor of a large Midwest parish who has had to fend off complaints about a lesbian member of his staff. As critics become more insistent, and as gay and lesbian Catholics become more public, he fears the resulting controversies will take a serious toll on the church.

“’We have to come to some kind of pastoral accommodation,’ he said.

Fr. Joe Muth

New Ways Ministry hosts a listing of gay-friendly parishes, which has grown to over 200 from just 20 a decade ago that are making pastoral accommodations. One parish with extensive experience doing LGBT ministry is St. Matthew’s in Baltimore, led by Fr. Joe Muth

“Gays and lesbians ‘just move into the regular life of the church’ at St. Matthew’s, Muth said, as he believes is perfectly normal.

“But he also said they are aware of the ‘sensitivity’ of their presence, so they have made a concerted effort to reach out to other groups in the parish, and the parish has also made sure to include one of Baltimore’s bishops in meetings.

“That dialogue has been invaluable, he said, and he has received few complaints or protests.”

Fr. Muth acknowledges that the framework is troubled, and limitations on engaging marriage equality or having LGBT ministers in public relations remain due to the bishops’ pressure. Gibson continues:

“In fact, the patchwork nature of the responses is part of the problem, say gay advocates. ‘It’s not that there is a witch hunt out there,’ said DeBernardo. ‘But there are witch hunters. … For the most part I don’t think bishops go after these folks. They don’t create controversy; they only respond to controversy.’

“At the moment, there are no guidelines to help pastors and parishioners deal with these issues, and there doesn’t seem to be an effort to develop anything comprehensive’…

“’Right now it’s a step-by-step process of helping people to be church,’ said Muth, of St. Matthew’s in Baltimore. ‘That’s the way I see it.’”

This piecemeal approach to solving the increasing number of parish conflicts does not seem sufficient to some, and leaves us asking LGBT Catholics, family, friends, and allies the very same question with which Gibson titled his article: Can gay Catholics find a home in the Catholic Church?

Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below about if it is possible, and how you remain Catholic.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Ways Ministry Is Honored by Brother, Help Thyself

January 28, 2013

Brother, Help Thyself,”  a fund-raising coalition of LGBT groups in the Baltimore-Washington,DC area   distributed their annual grants this past weekend, and New Ways Ministry was the grateful recipient of a generous grant of $8,125.

The money will be used for two upcoming projects and a new piece of office equipment:

1)  a workshop day in the Baltimore-Washington area on transgender issues;

2) a retreat day in the Baltimore-Washington area for people living with HIV/AIDS and people who minister with them;

3) a new photocopy machine to replace our cranky 16-year old one.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry's Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

Mark Clark (left) presents the Billy Collison Award to New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.

During the ceremony, New Ways Ministry was surprised to learn that we also received “Brother, Help Thyself’s” (BHT) cherished “Billy Collison Award.”  The award, named in memory of a BHT volunteer who served in a variety of leadership positions for the group, as well as being an active volunteer in the DC area.  The award is given “For representing the LGBTQ community so well and with so little, thus truly embodying Bill Collison, a true champion of the underdog.”

In presenting the award to New Ways Ministry’s Co-Founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Executive Director Francis DeBernardo, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark said:

“New Ways Ministry does what some might assume cannot be done–build bridges between the official Roman Catholic church hierarchy and the LGBT community, training people to minister to those who want to be fully themselves in their spiritual tradition and in their sexuality.”

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

Mark Clark accepting the Anthony J. Bacharach Award.

In accepting the award, DeBernardo said he was “dumbfounded, humbled, and honored,” and that New Ways Ministry pledged to keep the spirit of Billy Collison’s altruism for the underdog alive.

At the close of the day, BHT Treasurer Mark Clark was himself the recipient of the Anthony J. Bacharach Award for distinguished volunteer service to BHT and several other DC-based LGBT organizations, including New Ways Ministry and Dignity.

New Ways Ministry is so grateful to the tireless work of the members of Brother, Help Thyself.  Their unrelenting generosity is helping so many LGBT organizations in the Baltimore-Washington area.  The work they do benefits so many and makes our world a better place.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


MD Catholics Light Up Marriage Equality Message at Basilica & in Newspapers; Baltimore Pastor’s Pro-Equality Sermon Is Removed from the Web

November 5, 2012

Maryland Catholics who support marriage equality had a busy weekend showing their support for their state’s referendum on the issue which will be on the ballot tomorrow.

Catholics for Marriage Equality vigil outside Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption.

On Saturday evening, November 3rd, about 40 Catholics in the state stood outside the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption holding lighted signs which read “Catholics for Marriage Equality.”

On Friday, November 2nd, a half-page ad appeared in The Baltimore Sun signed by over 340 Catholics expressing their support for the state’s Question 6, which will ratify the marriage equality law passed in the spring.   The same ad appeared in The Star Democrat, a newspaper on the state’s Delmarva peninsula.  The ad’s statement read:

“As Catholics, we believe that all God’s children are created equal and have inherent dignity. We believe every member of our family and our community should enjoy the same opportunities, freedom, and fairness in life. Therefore, we support the Civil Marriage Protection Act signed into state law on March 1, 2012. The Civil Marriage Protection Act preserves religious freedom and protects civil liberties in a manner that respects the diversity of our great state.

“As Catholics, we will follow our consciences and vote FOR Question 6 on November 6, 2012 to support the Civil Marriage Protection Act.”

The statement was a condensed version of a pledge to support marriage equality.  The full text of the pledge can be found on the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland website.  You can visit the website to make a donation to the Catholic campaign to support marriage equality.

A news story on Washington DC’s Metro Weekly website quoted two of the ad’s organizers:

” ‘Catholic lay people in Maryland are voting their consciences to make sure that our state’s laws treat all people equally and fairly, and that all families in Maryland are strengthened and protected,’ said Francis DeBernardo, a spokesman for the coalition and the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a coalition partner, in a statement announcing the ad.

“The statement also quoted Ryan Sattler, one of the ad’s signatories: ‘While we respect our church’s leaders, we disagree with them about this issue of public policy. Our Catholic faith impels us to work for justice and dignity for all people, and supporting marriage equality is the right way to secure those values, and that is why as Catholics we are proud to be voting for Question 6.’ “

This weekend it also became known that the online video and audio recordings of a Baltimore Catholic pastor who preached in support of marriage equality had been taken down.

Who withdrew the video and audio recordings of Father Richard Lawrence’s October 28th sermon at St. Vincent dePaul parish?  Dan Rodricks, a Baltimore Sun reporter has a theory:

I inquired about what had happened, but the pastor declined to comment and I haven’t heard back from St. Vincent’s. I assume Lawrence’s superiors might have had something to do with the removal of the video. The same day it disappeared, a message about “the teaching role of priests” appeared on the archdiocesan web site. “

As part of that statement, Archbishop William Lori said:

“Preaching the word of God requires subordination of personal views to the word of God as taught by the Catholic Church. This was my promise when I became a priest, as it is the promise of every priest at his ordination. … No bishop, priest or deacon has the right to use the pulpit to advance his personal opinions. … May all priests, including myself, be mindful of their obligation to preach the Gospel even when it is unpopular with prevailing culture.”

Rodricks commented:

“None of this surprised me — not Father Lawrence’s courage in speaking from conscience, not the church’s predictable position against such a challenging expression from the pulpit. The church feels empowered to press its views about a civil matter, to lobby and to influence representatives, to campaign, to be a player in the democratic process that culminates in Tuesday’s election. And yet the church is itself no democracy; it refuses to hear dissent, even from one of its most eloquent and faithful servants speaking about a matter of civil justice.”

The actions of Maryland Catholics described at the beginning of the post, and the fact that Fr. Lawrence had received a standing ovation from his congregation, reveals that the laity do not agree with suppressing discussion of this issue in the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


Baltimore Catholic Pastor Preaches in Support of Marriage Equality and Conscience

October 29, 2012

Fr. Richard Lawrence

Father Richard Lawrence of St. Vincent dePaul parish in Baltimore, Maryland, preached yesterday about supporting marriage equality in the upcoming referendum on the issue in the state.  While Baltimore Archbishop William Lori asked pastors to read a letter opposing marriage equality, Father Lawrence did so, but then added his own view on the matter.

You can watch the 17 -minute homily by clicking here.

You can also listen to just the audio of the homily by clicking here, and then clicking on “October 28.”

You can read a National Catholic Reporter news story of the homily by clicking here.

Here’s a summary of his remarks:

Fr. Lawrence transitions from reading Archbishop Lori’s letter by stating that it cannot be ignored by faithful Catholics. He also states that in his homily, he will provide “some other thoughts that might be considered in your process of conscience formation.”

He makes the following points:

1) There is a separation between religious law and civil law.  While there are some civil laws we cannot accept, there are others than we can accept, even if we disagree with them.  He makes the case that Catholic institutions (parishes, schools, hospitals) hire and provide benefits to people whose marriages are not canonically valid.  We may not agree with the civil law in this regard, but, as Catholics, we support that law.

2) Fr. Lawrence states that “personally, we can go further than that,” as he explains a hope for the eventual change in church teaching regarding same-sex relationships. Citing Vatican II’s change in theology of sacramental marriage by making the procreation of children an equal function to the mutual support and common life of the couple, he notes that both became primary functions of marriage.

Developing this idea, he notes that the church marries elderly couples who cannot procreate because they are able to exemplify this other function of mutual support and common life.  The same, he says, can be done for gay and lesbian couples, for whom reproduction is not possible, but mutual support and common life is.

3)  If it is possible for church teaching on marriage to change, than why can’t civil law on marriage change, he asks.

4)  He notes that Genesis his two different verses which are used to define marriage:  “Be fruitful and multiply” and finding “a suitable partner or helpmate” for the human being.  A suitable partner for a heterosexual person is someone of the other gender, while a suitable partner for a gay or lesbian person is someone of the same gender.

Fr. Lawrence concludes by urging parishioners to develop and follow their consciences.

He received thunderous applause and a standing ovation at the conclusion of homily.  New Ways Ministry adds our own applause to that of his parishioners!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Maryland Catholics Spread Marriage Equality Message

September 29, 2012

Maryland Catholic parents and the state’s Catholic governor are spreading their message of support for marriage equality in the state’s upcoming referendum via the traditional press and YouTube.

Erma Durkin

Erma Durkin, who describes herself as an 83-year old “cradle Catholic” penned an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, in which she cites her Catholic faith as the reason she is voting for question #6 in the fall:

“We should be acknowledging in everyone — including my gay son — the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings. As a cradle Catholic, my parents and my church taught me to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated. I have tried to live according to this teaching. . . .

“Both my head and my heart tell me that each child in our family should enjoy the same opportunity to be married. It is only right to treat everyone fairly and equally in the public square. I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Ms. Durkin, who is a regular reader and frequent commenter to the Bondings 2.0 blog, acknowledges that for some, acceptance of marriage equality is a journey, but she is hopeful that others will arrive at the same place that she is:

“I do understand that, for many people, to come to a point where they can say they support marriage for gay couples will be a journey. And there are many lay Catholics on this journey now. In fact, a majority of Catholics in pews across the country support marriage equality. But we all come to this issue at our own pace, and that’s fine. . . .

“I hope Catholics in this great state vote their conscience on election day and support Question 6.”

Pat and Jenny Nugent, of Cambridge, Maryland (who are also frequent readers and contributors to this blog), are featured in a two-and-a-half minute video, explaining how their Catholic faith, plus the experience of having a gay son, have motivated to support this issue of justice and equality.

The Nugents, who have been married 48 years, and have seven children and eleven grandchildren, relate their moving story of how their faith and family experience molded their views.  You can view the entire video here:

In the video, Jenny states:

“I want him to have the same sense of security and fidelity in a relationship, where you know there’s one person you can always rely on.

“I also want for him to be able to say, to the world, this is who I love, this is who I’m committed to, and this is who is committed to me. And that they can do that publicly, like all of our other kids.”

And Pat adds:

“I’m going to vote my conscience and vote for QuestionNo. 6 in November.”

Another Maryland Catholic, Governor Martin O’Malley, was the subject of a ReligionDispatches. org essay this week, and author Peter Montgomery highlighted the governor’s argument about the strong religious protections in the law:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is actively campaigning for voter approval of a marriage equality law he signed earlier this year, said Monday night that his support for equality under the law is “very much informed” by his Catholic faith and his commitment to protecting the human dignity of every person in Maryland. . . .

“O’Malley said that expansive religious freedom language in the law was important to its passage and in keeping with the traditions of the state of Maryland. The referendum language makes clear that the law protects clergy from having to perform any ceremony that violates their beliefs, guarantees each faith control over its marriage doctrine, and ‘provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.’ ”

You can watch a video of O’Malley’s other comments here:

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori also spoke out about marriage equality this week,  opposing the referendum question.  His comments are not available, however, since the event at which he spoke was closed to the media.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Priest Who Denied a Lesbian Communion Is No Longer Welcome in Archdiocese

July 11, 2012

Father Marcel Guarnizo

The priest who denied communion to a Catholic lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral Mass is no longer in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where the incident occurred.

Father Marcel Guarnizo refused to offer a host to Barbara Johnson at St. John Neumann parish, Gaithersburg, Maryland, back in February.  The incident made international headlines.  Shortly afterwards, Guarnizo was placed on leave from ministry for unspecified “intimidating behavior,” and now the Archdiocese of Washington has revealed that he will no longer be ministering within its borders.

MSNBC. com reports that Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations for the Archdiocese of Washington, announced on July 10th:

“Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, who was given a temporary assignment at St. John Neumann parish. That assignment period has ended and Father Guarnizo is no longer in ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington.

“Scheve did not comment further on the matter.”

Barbara Johnson

The website also reports on Ms. Johnson’s response to this announcement:

“She told msnbc.com on Monday that she was relieved by the archdiocese’s move, although she thought it might have more to do with the alleged ‘intimidating’ behavior than how she was treated at her mother’s funeral.

“ ‘It gives me great comfort to see that the Archdiocese of Washington acted swiftly initially not only to point out that his behavior was wrong and not in accordance with their policy but then to suspend him. And this final message from them says to me that, unfortunately, this was not a person that was meant to be in the ministry in this region,’ she said. ‘Knowing that he will not be able to visit such pain on another family in the Washington archdiocese gives me and my family a lot of comfort.’

“One positive aspect of what happened to her was that ‘it showed the very human face of the issue regarding the church and the church’s teachings, and behavior towards the LGBT community within the church,’ she said. ‘I just wish that there was a more global and more positive church response to the LGBT community’ on issues such as marriage equality and communion.”

In interviews during this incident, Ms. Johnson spoke eloquently on the need for better understanding between the institutional church and its LGBT members.  In March, shortly after the funeral incident,  she addressed New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland,  and thanked Catholics for the amazing outpouring of love she received and about how the church needs to focus on its mission of love:

“What matters…and all that matters…is love. The love that you, and so many others have shown me during my darkest hours, has been uplifting and healing. . . .”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Maryland Catholics Organize to Support Marriage Equality

June 10, 2012

Sixty Catholics from the greater Baltimore region gathered for a workshop Saturday, June 9th, to discuss ways to protect Maryland’s newly-minted marriage equality law from a referendum challenge in November.

Sister Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, was the keynote speaker for the event, which also included a panel of speakers representing a variety of perspectives supporting marriage equality:  Rose Glorioso and Donna Senft, a married lesbian couple; Erma Durkin, the mother of a gay man who is married; Mark Clark, a gay man who had been previously married to a woman; and Karin Quimby, the field director for the Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign.

The event, which took place at Goucher College, Towson, Maryland, was sponsored by the Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland coalition which is comprised of faithful Catholic individuals and organizations, including: Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, Dignity/Washington, New Ways Ministry, Quixote Center/Catholics Speak Out, Thomas More Project, Viva House, Women-Church—Baltimore, and WATER–Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics & Ritual.

Ryan Sattler, a member of Baltimore Catholic Parishioners for Marriage Equality, who served as spokesperson for the event, described the meeting’s purpose:

“Despite negative messages about marriage equality from our hierarchy, lay Catholics support legal recognition for the committed relationships of lesbian and gay couples. Our Catholic tradition of justice requires that we support lesbian and gay couples not only to protect their families, but to strengthen the common good.”

Participants discuss strategies at Catholics for Marriage Equality–Maryland workshop.

Participants at the workshop discussed a number of strategies to support the marriage equality bill including pledging to go to the polls in November, encouraging other Catholics to do the same, raising funds to support the campaign for marriage equality, talking with their pastors about the referendum, and attending a rally in the fall for Catholics who support marriage equality.

Towson’s Patch.com interviewed Sister Gramick before the event to get her perspective on marriage equality.  She stated:

“It’s a great shame that the leaders of my church—the bishops—are all out there campaigning against marriage equality. I want to be proud of my church and that makes me very ashamed.”

Patch.com also interviewed Catholic gay couple Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn, for their opinions on the church’s involvement in marriage equality politics:

” ‘I think one thing I discovered growing up Catholic is that the institutional church doesn’t necessarily speak for the parishioners,’ Kolesar said. ‘I think homosexuality and gay marriage is one area where the church leadership and laity diverge.’

Dave Kolesar and Patrick Wojahn

“In fact, a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 52 percent of Catholics believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

“Wojahn, a College Park councilman, said it’s not the church’s place to comment on civil marriages.

” ”m not going to tell the Catholic Church what they should or should not believe,” he said. “But our state shouldn’t discriminate.’

“Gramick said she plans to do her best to avoid just that.

” ‘What I believe the Vatican is trying to do is stamp out questioning, to stamp out dissent; to really destroy any kind of thinking that’s different,’ she said.”

Catholics for Marriage Equality—Maryland also plans two more workshops for Catholics in the state:  on September 29th in Prince George’s County and on October 6th in Montgomery County.

Information about these workshops and the coalition’s other events can be found on their Facebook page.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


NCR Editorial and Columnist Support Bishop Robinson’s Symposium Call to Re-think Sexuality

March 28, 2012

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson speaking at New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium

New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore two weeks ago continues to make headlines.   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has editorialized in support of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s call to re-think the Catholic Church’s official teaching on sexuality, which he made during a talk at the Symposium.  An NCR columnist, Eugene Kennedy, the renowned psychologist and church observer, has also praised the Australian bishop’s proposal.

After summarizing Bishop Robinson’s main points (which can be read in the same newspaper’s article about the talk), the NCR editorial notes:

“Robinson is not the first to articulate the need for a responsible reexamination of sexual ethics, one that takes seriously the radical call to selfless love, but the addition of a bishop’s voice adds new dimension to the conversation. By rebuilding Christian morality in the area of sexuality in the way Robinson suggests, we will achieve a teaching that can better challenge the message about sexuality trumpeted by the dominant culture in television, music and advertising, a sexuality that idolizes self-gratification and that puts ‘me’ before ‘you.’ By placing the needs of the other first, our sexual ethic would reject sexual violence — physical and psychological, the idolatry of self-gratification, the objectification of people, and the trivializing of sex when it is separated from love.”

The NCR rightly points out that Robinson’s approach is not one of a wild-eyed radical:

“In the end, Robinson is making a profoundly traditional suggestion about sexuality, because what he proposes is rooted in genuine personal responsibility. He writes: ‘Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. … It is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything I do.’ ”

The tradition that Robinson is following is the tradition of Jesus in the Scriptures:

“Robinson’s take on sexuality — that it deserves deeper consideration than the narrow, rule-bound approach that has evolved in Christian circles — takes us to the heart of the radical approach Jesus took toward human relationships.”

NCR columnist Eugene Kennedy has also praised Bishop Robinson’s proposal.  In an essay entitled “Bishop Robinson and the redemption of eros,” Kennedy writes:

“Bishop Robinson’s purpose is, in fact, that set out by Pope John XXIII as his reason for convening Vatican II, “To make the human sojourn on earth less sad.”

“Indeed, in urging a much needed review of what and how the church teaches about human sexuality, Bishop Robinson draws on themes central to Vatican II. The first of these is found in placing the reality of the human person rather than the abstraction of natural law as the central reference point in church teachings and papal pronouncements about marriage and sexual activity.

“The second is found in the shift from an emphasis on objective acts to subjective intentions and dispositions in making judgments on the badness or goodness of how people behave. This rightfully emphasizes the impact that our actions or omissions have on other persons rather than on the ire that has idled within so many church leaders who have been so preoccupied with sin. . . .

“Robinson’s convictions on the need for a thorough examination of the church’s teaching on sexuality are significant in themselves but also because he has found a way to speak about this essential matter from within the church, even if in the mannered traditional way that dialogue moves, however slowly, toward a wider circle of prelates.”

After Bishop Robinson spoke at the Symposium, many people told me that they felt something new and remarkable had taken place. One person told me that it felt  like a new chapter had been opened in the church’s discussion on sexuality.  His talk offered not only hope, but a way forward that people felt was authentically human and authentically Catholic.

His experience as the Australian Bishops’ Conference coordinator of pastoral responses to that nation’s sexual abuse crisis transformed his thinking on how Catholicism approached sexuality and how that approach can be improved.  As was evident from the style and content of his talk, Bishop Robinson had one three things that more bishops should emulate:  he opened his ears, his mind, and his heart.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Bishop, Governor, and Theologian Highlight Symposium’s Second Day

March 17, 2012

On the second day of  New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, in Baltimore, Maryland, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia summoned the Catholic Church to rethink its teaching on sexuality, for heterosexuals and lesbian/gay people.  (The full text of his talk can be found on his website.)

The National Catholic Reporter news account of the bishop’s talk cites his call for

” ‘a new study of everything to do with sexuality’ — a kind of study that he predicted ‘would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.’

” ‘If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ he said. . . .”

” ‘If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts,’ Robinson said.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

“He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus’ teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms — starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality.

” ‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be  proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people,’ Robinson said.

” ‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ he added, ‘for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.’ “

Robinson’s talk was the last of three highlights of the day.  The first was a talk by Professor Patricia Beattie Jung of St. Paul School of  Theology, Kansas City, Missouri, who highlighted the social and individual benefits of sexual fidelity and marriage for both heterosexual and lesbian/gay couples. (More on her wonderful talk in a separate posting.)

Governor Martin O'Malley

The other highlight was a luncheon visit and talk by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic who recently signed marriage equality into law in his state.

A  WYPR-FM interview with New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo about the governor’s appearance at the Symposium is available on the web page for the Midday with Dan Rodricks show.  Look under the section for Friday, March 16th.

The Washington Post carried an Associated Press story about his talk which began:

“Maryland’s same-sex marriage debate may end up being decided in the voting booth, but Gov. Martin O’Malley told a conference on Catholicism and homosexuality Friday that he believes voters will come down on the side of human dignity.”

The article goes on to cite selections from  the governor’s talk:

“ ‘I’m not here as a Catholic, I’m here as the governor for all of Maryland,’ O’Malley said. ‘Each one of us in the public arena brings with us our own perspectives, our own traditions, our own faith traditions, our own ethnic backgrounds. What we hope and what we should expect of all our leaders is when they look at the Constitution is to protect rights equally among all people.’

“O’Malley said after his address to the group that it was important for him to articulate what was accomplished with the same-sex marriage legislation, which he framed as a debate on how to protect religious freedoms and equal rights, and said he’ll be taking that message to people of many different faiths.

“ ‘The conversation in the General Assembly is concluded, but the conversations at workplaces and dinner tables and kitchen tables will just be starting. I have a lot of faith in people in our state. I do believe with full consideration people will come to the conclusion that as we have in the past we can protect rights more fully and equally while also protecting religious liberty,’ he said.”

The Edge newspaper’s article noted that O’Malley thanked New Ways Ministry for supporting  the state’s marriage equality law:

“O’Malley, who is Catholic, received standing ovations as he entered the hotel ballroom and took the stage to deliver his speech. He specifically thanked New Ways Ministry for their support of the marriage equality bill.

” ‘Thank you especially for your voice in the debate that we just concluded in the General Assembly of Maryland on the issue of how we will protect freedom of religions and rights equally,’ said O’Malley. . . .

“Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the governor’s remarks.

” ‘As Catholics, we are proud of Gov. O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,’ he said. ‘His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all.’  “

Photos of the Governor’s visit and talk to the Symposium will be posted when they become available from his press office.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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